The other day, I received a random friend request on Facebook. The guy lives a few hours away, our mutual friends are exclusively female, and his cover photo is a pinup pic of Kate Upton. You know the type. The type that shoots you a “hey” or “wassup” every few days, despite your blatant attempts at ignoring him (does he really not get the concept of read receipts?). The motives of these guys are crystal clear: they’re out to find hookups, and fast.
Now I’m in a perfectly happy relationship, and I’m not afraid to let everyone in the world know that. But in my particular case, this creep continued pestering me about my love life, eventually asking if I would ever cheat on my boyfriend. He was trying to weasel an answer out of me that would quench his thirst.
That’s when I lost it. I threw my phone across the bed and screamed into my pillow, too furious to even think straight. How dare he label me as a potential cheater, when he knew nothing about me. How dare he assume that I would commit the ultimate act of betrayal against my partner. Eventually, I was able to calm down enough to explain to this guy that I loved my boyfriend and I could never dream of hurting him that way.
His response was simple and sickening all at once: “accidents happen.”
He’s right, accidents do happen. Like tripping over your cat and falling face first onto the kitchen floor. Or leaving your wallet at home and driving like a grandma to avoid cops on the way to work. These are mistakes that happen (and in my case, quite frequently).
But cheating is not an accident. Carrying on an emotional or sexual relationship behind the back of your significant other is a choice; a choice that was made, whether it was sober or drunk, just once or a million times.
It’s true that the definition of cheating is subjective. Some consider it to be simple flirting, while the limit isn’t set for others until sex comes into the picture. It varies with every relationship. But wherever the line is drawn between partners, it can be devastating when it is crossed.
When you’ve been cheated on, your entire sense of trust is broken. Your self-esteem plummets and sometimes you even blame yourself. You become guarded and it can be difficult to fully trust anyone again.
Cheating can really ruin a person.
So when you label cheating as an “accident”, it demeans the very person you cheated on. You make them feel as if they have no right to be upset, because “accidents” are so menial.
This mindset is disgusting. Cheating is in no way comparable to spilling wine on your bedspread. Instead of cataloging cheating as an accident, we need to see it for what it truly is: a mistake.
If you’ve cheated on a significant other, don’t underestimate the power of your mistake. Don’t trivialize your actions, and especially don’t perpetuate the delusion that cheating is as simple as forgetting to turn off the TV.
An accident is dropping your phone, not your pants.